[Prevention of Family Violence Bill 2018]
[Second reading speech - Huong Truong MLC]
I rise today to speak to the Prevention of Family Violence Bill 2018. The Greens will support the immediate passage of this Bill.
We understand the Bill establishes the Family Violence Prevention Agency, otherwise known as Respect Victoria, as an independent statutory authority. This Bill defines the functions, powers and duties of the Agency; establishing the Board and the appointment of its CEO. In so doing, we believe the state government will fulfil Recommendation 188 of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
We also understand that the legislation delivers on a key component of Recommendation 188, delivering a statutory body with the independence necessary to embed, coordinate and drive the primary prevention of family violence across Victoria, as now outlined in the strategy and action plan Free from violence.
How times have changed.
I grew up experiencing family violence. I didn’t know any different. I was told it was good for me - that I needed to be physically assaulted and bullied to tell right from wrong. I’ve spent my teens and my adult life trying to unlearn this lie that I was the cause of the violence inflicted upon me.
I watched my mum get beaten up for perming her hair or speaking her mind. We were threatened with homelessness, made to feel worthless and powerless. The violence had become such a normal part of home, I was confused when the police would turn up. And I didn’t question it when Mum would be taken to hospital, get treated, then sent home, to a place of danger rather than refuge without anyone asking if we were okay.
If Respect Victoria had existed back then, my childhood would have been so different. And the following years spent overcoming trauma instead could have been spent living a safe and peaceful life. This Bill is so important because this Agency will bring light, research and resources to bear on this problem that has been hidden behind closed doors for far too long.
And despite growing awareness and shifting community attitudes, family violence affects too many constituents in my own electorate of Western Metro. Families across this state live in the fear and humiliation that I grew up with. Their experiences are often compounded by intersectional disadvantage, such as gender, race and disability.
Luckily the public conversation and mandate for change is strong and growing - owing much to the courage and perseverance of survivors and activists. As a society we are all beginning to recognise what the experts have long known: gender inequality creates the social conditions for family violence, discrimination and violence against women.
Laughing at sexist jokes, reducing a woman’s worth to her appearance, turning a blind eye to the gender pay gap or blaming women for not working hard enough to get board positions or otherwise take the place of a man in power - it’s all up the same end of the continuum of violence and entitlement to control of women and their bodies.
We Greens are pleased this legislation takes seriously the Royal Commission’s intent to ensure the survivors of family violence are front and centre in all ongoing debates and reforms.
In our view what is critical in this strategy is the clear and unambiguous recognition that the aim of reducing and preventing family violence over the long-term requires us to focus attention on reducing violence against women.
The gendered nature of family violence is clear and evidence-based on any measure of official police and court data, or any other data sources.
The statistics speak for themselves.
According to the Victorian Crime stats, in the 12 months to March 2018, 75% of family members affected by family violence incidents were female, compared to only 25% who were male.
It is estimated based upon ABS Personal Safety survey that across Australia 95% of all victims of violence experienced violence from a male perpetrator.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare stated 1 in 6 Australian women have been subjected since the age of 15 to physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous cohabiting partner, this is only 1 in 16 men.
Let me say it again: The unequal position of women (and broadly speaking anyone who doesn’t identify as straight cis-male), and the use of violence against them DEPENDS upon social norms about gender roles that legitimise demonstrations of power against women.
Let’s keep in mind the serious implications of family violence in our state.
In the last 12 months, 53,695 recorded criminal incidents in Victoria (14.1%) related to a family incident.
And over the last 12 months, there were between 5676 and 7127 family incidents recorded per month.
I hear time and again about the current shortfall in the availability of public housing for individuals affected by family violence. Considering that one third of Victorians accessing homelessness services are escaping this kind of violence, I am very worried that the delivery of short-term and medium-term housing is not happening quickly or meaningfully enough.
Statistics also show repeat offenders are increasing. The proportion of perpetrators who had more than one incident recorded annually increased significantly over the past ten years, from 18.4% in 2006 to 27.0% in 2015.
Victorian Crime statistics show that outside of the family violence context, sexual crimes are increasing where overall crime is falling. Over the last 24 months, the major principle offence categories with a significant upward trend was for sexual offences (up 13.4% from 7,493 to 8,495).
A key strategy in ending the tidal wave of family violence in Victoria in the long-term must be to ensure that families affected by this kind of violence are protected from violence, are provided options at resolving family conflict, and are empowered with the support necessary to ensure future family violence isn’t given a chance.
We Greens understand that Respect Victoria will have three key functions:
research and evaluation,
advice to the relevant Minister, and
community engagement through campaigns.
We acknowledge the importance of preventing family violence.
We acknowledge that by establishing Respect Victoria as an independent statutory authority, strategies developed and funding decisions made by Respect Victoria will be guided by experts and will empower the authority to provide independent policy advice to government. This measure is incredibly important.
We acknowledge that the legislation is also consistent with Recommendation 188 in its focus on evidence-based methods to ensure the effectiveness of programs and importantly, that impacts of programs are measured and adjusted.
We also acknowledge that the legislation outlines the Agency must conduct a review every 3 years of the trends and outcomes in Victoria in relation to the prevention of family violence and violence against women.
We Greens will pay close attention to how the sector itself evaluates the impact of the Agency’s work and prevention strategies.
While we support the state government’s commitment to the Royal Commission and their endorsement of an independent statutory body to deliver primary prevention strategies, we Greens expect to see greater public investment in family violence primary prevention strategies over time.
We are also looking forward to state government measures that embed Recommendation 189 and see the introduction of respectful relationships education in government schools in Victoria from prep to year 12.
The Greens support the passage of this Bill. We believe this is good legislation. We will also support the Liberal Party’s amendment to ensure the financial performance of the Agency is subject to an annual report and that this is laid before each House of the Parliament.